Archive for March 18, 2021

NGC 2685 – Galaxy In Ursa Major – March 2021- Observer’s Challenge Report # 146

March 18, 2021

MONTHLY OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina

&

Sue French, New York

March 2021

Report #146

NGC 2685, Galaxy In Ursa Major

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together

march-2021-observers-challenge-_ngc-2685-2

Introduction

This month’s target

German astronomer Wilhelm Tempel discovered NGC 2685 in 1882 with an 11-inch refractor. Loosely translated, his discovery description reads: Good II-III; round; with a small star in the middle; stands 4′ south of a 10th-magnitude star. 

In the Hubble Atlas of the Galaxies, Allan Sandage states, “NGC 2685 is perhaps the most unusual galaxy in the Shapley-Ames catalogue.” While most astronomers would agree with this, there remain various opinions as to why. NGC 2685 is generally regarded as a polar ring galaxy wrapped in exterior hoops of gas and dust aligned nearly perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy’s lenticular disk. The rings may have been birthed by a merger and/or accretion event. A less touted viewpoint is that this galaxy is strongly warped, and the semblance of rings is merely the result of projection effects.

This perplexing galaxy lies roughly 50 million light-years away from us. As seen photographically, the unusual array of gas, dust, and resultant stars entwining the Helix gives rise to its name. The galaxy may also house a supermassive black hole. Sue French